English umpires Willey, Mallender pull out of Zimbabwe

Published: Tuesday, February 18, 2003, 3:44 [IST]
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Johannesburg: English umpires Peter Willey and Neil Mallender re-ignited the Zimbabwe World Cup controversy on Monday when they refused to officiate in the strife-torn country, the International Cricket Council (ICC) announced. Willey was due to stand in two matches in Bulawayo - Zimbabwe's February 24 game against Australia and as third umpire for the February 28 match with The Netherlands. Mallender, like Willey a former England Test player, was to be third umpire in the February 24 match.

Their decision comes on the back of the England team's controversial decision to forfeit its February 13 match in Harare for security reasons and Willey had already stated that he wanted to do the same. "I advised the ICC some time ago of my concerns and indicated that if my employer, the ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board), did not send its team to Zimbabwe, I would be unlikely to travel to the country," Willey said. News of Willey's decision was greeted with anger in Harare with Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU) chief executive Vince Hogg livid at the latest row to hit his country.

"Just what is the matter with these people?" Hogg told. "I am at the hotel where all the teams stay and where the Indians are at the moment. Security here and at both our grounds is extremely tight. Willey has absolutely no need to worry on that account, nor anyone else." ICC supremo Malcolm Speed confirmed that both men had earlier stated their doubts about travelling to Zimbabwe. "Both umpires had separately advised the ICC that if the ECB did not send its team to Harare, they would be reluctant to fulfill their appointments in Bulawayo," said Speed.

"Since the cancellation of the England match, they have reconfirmed their decisions that they do not want to stand in Zimbabwe." Billy Bowden of New Zealand has replaced Willey for the Australia match and by Nadeem Ghouri of Pakistan for the Holland game. Mallender will be replaced by Brian Jerling of South Africa as third umpire for the Zimbabwe versus Australia fixture. South African David Orchard will still officiate the February 24 match as planned. The ICC added that both Willey and Mallender will complete their other scheduled games - Willey is third umpire for the South Africa versus Sri Lanka match in Durban on March 3, while Mallender will act as third umpire for the Australia versus Namibia game in Potchefstroom on February 27.

He will also stand with Asoka de Silva in the Kenya versus Bangladesh game at The Wanderers on March 1. India, which plays Zimbabwe at the Harare Sports Club on Wednesday, has stated it has no qualms about playing in the country. Meanwhile, South Africa's Security Minister Charles Nqakula re-opened the boycott row by accusing England and New Zealand, who wants its game against Kenya switched from Nairobi, of dishonesty. "People need to be honest and give us the real reason why they do not want to go to these countries, because it has nothing to do with the safety and security of players," said Nqakula. "When people say they did not want to go to those places because of security fears, they are not telling the truth. We do not have the information on which they based their decision not to go to these two places," he told the SAPA news agency in Cape Town.

AFP Copyright AFP 2001

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